The following is reprinted through the kind permission of C.
Clair Gross, Editor and Publisher of The Imlay City Times, Imlay
The article was sent to us by G. W. Topham, 3492 McKeen Lake R.
D., Columbiaville, Michigan. The accident took place on April
2,1970, in the afternoon.
Imlay City was the scene of a spectacular Grand Trunk freight
train wreck about 4:45 Thursday afternoon. The mishap occurred just
east of the Blacks Corners Road crossing at the viaduct which
carries the main line over the P. O. & N. tracks.
One of the derailed freight cars went down the embankment and
crashed into the Gibbard Bros. Elevator garage and storage building
at the rear of the Gibbard property. The building was badly
No one was injured in the wreck, and no one was in the Gibbard
buildings at the time of the mishap.
Work crews for the Grand Trunk started in late Thursday – try to
get the mess cleaned up so that trains could run again, but it was
late Saturday night before the direct line from Chicago to Port
Huron through Imlay City could be used. Before that, the trains
were all rerouted through Detroit
The 62-car freight train was headed east, from Battle Creek to
Port Huron, and was loaded with soft drinks, cereal, clay, glass,
plastic and lumber. Forty-one of the cars were derailed and many of
them were piled one on top of the other some three high and several
were broken open.
Fortunately, 23 of the derailed cars were empty at the time of
the accident. The freight was pulled by three Diesel engines.
Cause of the accident was not definitely stated, but a railroad
official said it may have been caused by a broken coupler. The
engineer said the train was traveling 50 miles an hour. Four
trainmen were on board. About a half mile of track was damaged.
Railroad men worked around the clock to get the line reopened so
that traffic could be resumed. Huge cranes remove derailed and
damaged cars and new track was laid as an area was cleared.
A graveyard of massive, bent box cars was formed in the vacant
property south of the railroad right-of-way and north of the Vlasic
Other cars were pushed over the north bank of the right-of-way
to get them out of the way so the new track could be laid.
A pile of other freight cars was on the P. O. & N. tracks,
under the viaduct, where they landed when the accident occurred.
Workmen were leaving them there while efforts were concentrated on
getting the main line open.
The roadbed is wide because until a few years ago it had a
double track. This gave workmen room in which to lay new track
without having to do a lot of preparatory work.
However, the new track had to be laid on a slight curve, and
traffic over it Sunday was proceeding at a snail’s pace. But
the main line was open, and that was the important thing.
News of the wreck, with its accompanying television, radio and
newspaper publicity, brought hundreds of sightseers to Imlay City
over the weekend.